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The streaming wars are heating up this fall as Netflix (as well as Amazon and Hulu) get some new high-profile competition in the forms of Apple TV+ and Disney+, and more will debut in 2020. Netflix was once easily on top of the streaming game, but it's entirely possible that the massive subscriber numbers will either dwindle or plateau in the face of new streaming services. While that sounds like a very bad thing for Netflix, CEO Reed Hastings doesn't actually think subscriber numbers are too important for success.
Reed Hastings explained this somewhat surprising outlook on streaming success, saying this:
Time will be the real competition. You’ll hear some subscriber numbers but you can just bundle things so that’s not going to be that relevant. So the real measurement will be time -- how do consumers vote with their evenings? What mix of all the services do they end up watching?
While the market may be all but overrun with streaming services over the course of the next year, that doesn't necessarily mean that consumers will have to choose just one service. Inevitably, people are going to subscribe to multiple services but land on a favorite that takes up more of their time than the rest. Will consumers go for Netflix, or more for Hulu or Disney+ or Apple TV+? Or will they choose to do something other than streaming TV altogether?
Of course, not everybody who goes for streaming video will necessarily decide to bundle up and shell out the money for more than one service. That said, plenty of people already do. I subscribe to a few myself, including Netflix, and I'm one of the many who will be checking out The Mandalorian on Disney+ ASAP next week, just as I watched Stranger Things ASAP on Netflix and the devilish/angelic Good Omens ASAP on Amazon earlier this year.
As Reed Hastings said at the New York Times DealBook Conference (via CNBC), there are more factors in play than just subscriber totals. In fact, Hastings himself said that he'll be subscribing to Disney+! The streaming race may be on to see which platform can produce the most desirable original series, to go with attractive libraries of popular shows.
Netflix undeniably has the volume when it comes to original series, but Netflix originals are axed on a regular basis. Disney+ has a packed slate of originals on the way, Apple TV+ shelled out the big bucks for some of its first original shows, HBO Max has added some superheroes and reboots to its list of originals, and CBS All Access' may just keep riding the Star Trek wave with more and more spinoffs.
With all these streaming options competing with traditional broadcast programming, the future may see the evaluation of ratings change. Netflix already has its own way of measuring viewership, which is based on subscribers finishing at least 70% of a given series. The TV game is changing; only time will tell which platforms are able to keep up and which ones flounder.